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Published: August 24th 2011
August 21-Our goal this morning was to make it to the Hungarian Parliament Tour in English at 10am. We should have read our Ricky (Rick Steeves) better, because by the time we got ourselves into the city, the line for tickets was huge and they sold out before we got one. After this change in plans, we floundered for a bit before catching our course again. We left the Parliament and then tried to hurry to catch the subway to get to a bus tour of Momento Park which is a park just outside town of all of the old communist statues. "We just missed it" (That's for you, amy)... so then we had to re-plan again. We decided to try to find out if the Great Market in Budapest was open on Sunday, even though Rickie said it wasn't. We asked a bunch of TI (Tourist Info) people and no one was sure... especially because of the holiday the day before. So we tried our hand at catching a tram to the market... this was a joke... We must have missed 3 trams trying to figure out which one we needed. We finally got one tram driver who had about 3 words of English who got us on the right track. (Side Note- Hungarian is a hard language and it stands alone...it's not like any other language. PLUS... not many people in Budapest speak English. This was all part of the adventure!!) We got off at the Great Market to find that it was not only closed on this Sunday but the day before also due to the holiday. I was super bummed about this because I had seen so many great Travel Shows on Budapest that highlighted this market... but we quickly recovered from this blow and made our way to the Turkish Baths at the Gellert Hotel. This is somewhat similar to the Thermal Baths (Like Saratoga Springs). The entry process for this was somewhat confusing, but Ricky guided us right in. We each bought a ticket for the baths and a locker. Our ticket was in the form of a little watch like bracelet. We then made our way to a turnstile and we used the watch as a key to pass thru. We made our way to the women's locker room and got changed. Our handy watch locked our locker and we made our way outside to the two outside pools. The first pool was a wave pool with cool water. The major difference is that the sides of the pool rose about 10 feet up from the water. The second pool was a thermal bath pool...we choose this one. The bath is continually slowly draining and every few minutes a new batch of spring water is pumped in. There were seats all around the edges and the water was 36 degrees Celsius ( 97 F). We quickly sat down and commenced our people watching. I originally wanted to go to the other Turkish baths in Budapest so that we could see more locals, but this one ended up closer. This bath had mostly tourists. We soaked our tired legs and feet for awhile. It was nice to sit and relax for a bit. (A side note... the weather has been very nice but super hot. Most days so far it has been 90 degrees +) After a quick dip in the cooler wave pool, we changed and exited the bath...we were completely refreshed. We walked back across the bridge to Pest and grabbed some lunch. I decided to try an Iced Chocolate Drink, which was like hot chocolate on ice.. very delicious. We devoured our sandwiches. After lunch, we took a tram ride to the Great Dohany Synagogue. This is the second largest synagogue in the world, right behind NYC. We purchased a guided tour and we were glad we did. After being checked for appropriate dress, we met our tour guide who was very funny and reminded us of one of our previous, beloved tour guides, Telly (Italy). She gave us an overview of not only the synagogue, but of the impact of WWII on Budapest. The synagogue was amazing and the plight of the local Jewish people was heartbreaking. We visited the famous tree of life which has 600,000 silver leaves to represent the 600, 000 Jewish people who lost their lives during the Holocaust. We learned a lot that we did not know... like to cremate a jewish person takes away their possibility for salvation... so you can imagine the impact of the concentration camp incinerators. We both walked away with a higher level of respect for the people of Hungary who had to deal with the Holocaust and then 50 years of Communism. A short subway ride took us to Heroes Square and the City park area. We casually strolled thru the square and park taking in the lovely park views, especially the modern art installation near the Vajdahunyad Castle..which houses Hungary's Millennial exposition. On our walk towards our hotel we passed the 1956 uprising monument, which celebrates the historical uprising against the communists. The monument is square wood pillars of various heights that represent the individual protestors and form a short of wall near the front. The protestors knocked down a Stalin Statue on this square. On our stroll, we decided to peek into a few small corner stores and grabbed ourselves some famous Hungarian paprika. Apparently, I am now fluent in Hungarian, because I was skillfully able to select both sweet and hot paprika for our kitchens back home. We also picked up some snacks for the train. We made it back to our lobby with enough time to collect our suitcases and rest in the beautiful, modern lobby before moving across the street to the main Budapest train station. We boarded our train and had an on-time departure at 7:10pm. We immediately found our reserved seats, or so we thought we did. We happily rode the train in these seats for about an hour and a half before someone came with the same seat number as my mom. I had her stay there and I went in search of our actual seats. About 6 cars away, I found the first class cabin and our seats. We had no idea we were sitting in the back with the common folk (haha). I went back and collected her and we started to move up ...when we ran into the rude and unhelpful train ticket collector, who gave us a fine because we did not have the date written into our train pass. We tried to plead ignorance but his panties were in a wad...so we paid the fine and moved up to our private cabin in the front of the train. I worked on the blog entries and mom stretched our for the final hour or so until we arrived in Vienna. Once inside the train station, we quickly sorted two subway tickets, I navigated us and soon we were walking into the front door of the hotel Mozart, which appears to have been built while Mozart was alive (and never updated since then). We squeezed ourselves into the tiny lift and made our way to our room. The room was adequate, but compared to our last hotel..it was not a welcome surprise at 11pm. We put our cases away and I took a shower in a bathroom that was smaller than a cruise ship bathroom and tucked ourselves in for the night.
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